Portrait of Marie-Antoinette in Temple Tower by
Alexandre Kucharsky (1815).
In another post I raised the question of what book Marie-Antoinette was
shown holding in the paining by the Marquise De Brehans. Diving into the
question a little deeper since then I found that De Brehans left France
during the Revolution and was living in England at the time she painted
the portrait in 1793. Therefor it is most likely that De Brehans never
visited Antoinette in prison and that the painting was drawn from memory
and the imagination, or perhaps was based on one of Kucharsky's 1793
paintings (above), or all of these. Which of course would move the
question of the book from the historical to a footnote in art history.
But it very well could be that De Brehans did conjure Antoinette holding
some specific book, in which case — footnote or not — it would be
interesting to see if there is enough detail in the painting to settle
the question of the book.
The problem now is finding the painting. One site gives the location as
the Musée de la Ville de Paris. Another gives it as housed in the
Musée Carnavalet. Perhaps somewhat confusing inasmuch as the second
could be considered as being under the umbrella of the first. Ransacking
the catalogue of the Musée Carnavalet I did find two paintings by
Alexandre Kucharsky of Antoinette in Temple Tower — one of which depicts
her with another, obviously hand-written book. But both of these date from
1815. And in fact there seem to be a number of nostalgic portraits of
Antoinette that were finished at the time of or after the Restoration. These
paintings and drawings present Antoinette in exactly the opposite light than
the one given her by the sans-culottes — more as a suffering saint rather
than the 'Austrian bitch.'
And so it goes. Up one day, down another, then up again the next. I will
keep looking for the painting, to see what I can conjure in my own right;
detail from a footnote, the detail of a detail.